USAFA and the Woodmen Sanitarium

USAFA South Gate c. 1958


In the late 19th and early 20th century, Colorado Springs became a sanctuary for sufferers of tuberculosis, known as consumption because it describes how the illness wastes away or consumes its victims (as a victim himself, Artus Van Briggle moved to Colorado Springs in 1899 and established his studio there). One of the most prominent sanitariums was the Modern Woodmen of America Sanitarium, located near the western end of what is now Woodmen Road


From the Modern Woodmen Web Site:

"…the tuberculosis sanatorium was recognized as one of the most outstanding institutions for the treatment of tuberculosis by the American College of Surgeons. At the height of its activity, the sanatorium had 155 employees, the capacity for 245 patients, and the most up-to-date equipment and procedures. 

"From 1909 to 1947, the sanatorium provided free treatment to more than 12,000 members. It offered board, lodging, treatment, medicine, dental work and laundering, all at no expense to the patient. The only required expense was transportation to the sanatorium, and most camps paid for that.

"The sanatorium achieved a remarkable 70 percent recovery rate with rest, wholesome food, pure air, exercise and the right mental attitude - the treatment of that time."


A distinctive feature of the Woodmen Sanitarium was the use of Dr. Charles Gardiner’s “Sanatory Tent.” Hundreds of these tents, actually constructed of wood, were used for the comfort of its patients.

When the sanitarium closed in 1947, the tents were put to an array of uses by new owners, including the USAF, which in 1958 used one as the guard house at the south gate entrance to the newly constructed Air Force Academy. Since then permanent entrance facilities have been constructed and refined several times, but there was a brief moment when the Air Force Academy and the Woodmen Sanitarium shared a common historical element.

The tents can still be seen in a variety of locations around the Colorado Springs area. There are no doubt many more to be found in the area, employed for uses both grand and mundane, but whose origins are now mostly lost to time.